Broadway union sets strike vote

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NEW YORK -- Leaders of the Broadway stagehands union have scheduled a strike authorization vote for Oct. 21 after tense labor negotiations this week between Broadway producers and Local One failed to produce a settlement.

The union’s constitution requires its members get a 10-day notification of a strike authorization vote. The vote does not mean members would strike -- only that it would give union leaders the authority to call a walkout if they deemed it necessary.

The action was announced Friday by James J. Claffey Jr., president of Local One. Claffey said he was asking for the authorization in case producers implement new work rules.

In addition, the union historically has needed permission from its parent union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Employees, to strike. But if the producers implement new works rules, the union said it is unclear whether Local One could strike without the parent union’s authorization.

On Tuesday, the union and the League of American Theatres and Producers presented what both sides said were their final offers. They have not had any formal discussions since then.

Producers want more flexible work rules, meaning more leeway in the number of stagehands they hire to load-in and keep a show running. The union seeks to protect its jobs.

“The union addressed nearly every item on the producers’ list and offered imaginative solutions that met the producers’ requests,” Claffey said after negotiations collapsed.

A work stoppage would shut down most commercial Broadway productions but not those produced by such nonprofit organizations as the Roundabout Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club and Lincoln Center Theater. Also apparently not affected are shows in theaters owned by non-League members, which include the Hilton, where Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” is in previews, and the Disney-owned New Amsterdam, home to “Mary Poppins.”

Meanwhile, shows will go on this weekend as scheduled.

“All Broadway theatergoers who have tickets should come in and enjoy the performances,” Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the League of American Theatres and Producers, said Friday. “To those of you who have followed media reports of the Broadway contract negotiations with Local One and have heard that we may be shutting down today or over the weekend, we want to assure you that that is not the case.”

The stagehands have been working without a contract since the end of July.
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